Many of us have important people in our lives who we consider to be our mentors. These are trusted advisers and role models – people who have "been there" and "done that." They support and encourage us as their mentees by offering suggestions and knowledge, both general and specific.
Some mentors are assigned. Some develop organically. For John Bayer ’83 and Hannah Fowler ‘09, that special connection was their Randolph roots.
The best relationships are reciprocal. While Hannah, a young alumna who recently moved to the D.C. area to begin a new job, may have thought she was only on the receiving end of this valuable mentorship, it turns out that John, an established retired military professional with a family of his own, also learned an immeasurable amount about life, friendship, and the power of these connections.
Graduating, moving, and starting my new job has been a whirlwind.
In May, I graduated from the College of Charleston with degrees in Hospitality and Tourism Management, as well as Business Administration. While in Charleston, I had the pleasure of working at multiple hotels, one of which was The Renaissance Charleston Historic District. After working for Marriott for just a short time, I knew that I would pursue a career with this company. It is built on the foundations of integrity, honor, and service; all of which I learned to appreciate as part of my education and experience at Randolph School. In April, I was offered a management position at the Bethesda Marriott in Maryland, and I am now the Catering Sales Executive on property. My sales are focused on the wedding and Mitzvah markets and I also reach out to local companies for holiday parties and social functions. The move from Charleston to Washington, D.C. was a fast one, and at times, a rocky one. Searching for jobs in a large city with minimal connections is very daunting, so every connection is valuable. John Bayer ’83 and my father, Matt Fowler, attended Randolph together. Utilizing this connection, I reached out to John on LinkedIn. From the very beginning, he has walked me through the ups and downs of job searching, renting a house, relocating, and so much more.
Two weeks after moving to the area, my car broke down on the side of the road. Being unfamiliar with the area, I had no idea where to take my car or what to do. John answered my email at 10:30pm and started making suggestions.
Over the next few weeks, he was my "second father," if you will. He educated me on not only car repairs, but he also shared some helpful resources that helped me in ultimately fixing and then trading in/buying a new car. This information was so valuable and comforting.
John is not just a resource for information, although he is a great one. John believes in the "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime" metaphor. He gave me the tools to research, learn, and act on my own instead of telling me what to do.
I made educated decisions that have prepared me for the larger, more difficult, and more numerous life decisions to come. He will say that he is just practicing for when he has to teach his daughter the same lessons, but his mentorship means the world to me.
Every time I have emailed, called, or texted John, he has been there with knowledge of the area and the "real world" but more importantly, he has been there with support. Our interaction just goes to show that the spirit of the Randolph community reaches much farther than the school campus or even the city of Huntsville.
Without John, my transition would have been much more trying to say the least. There are many more learning opportunities to come in my position as well as in life and I look forward to the continued guidance and the support that John provides.
When the Alumni Office reached out to share Hannah’s thoughtful comments with John, he expressed how honored, flattered and humbled he felt to hear that he had impacted her life in this way. According to John, she was actually the one to teach him such valuable life lessons throughout it all.
Matt and I were friends through middle school at Randolph, but had not connected much after he left for Huntsville High. Over the last five or six years, we have re-connected via Facebook.
Last year, as Chair of Randolph’s Board of Trustees, Matt sent out the request for input from alumni for the new Head of School search effort. Through these discussions and others about our 30th reunion, I also learned about Hannah’s upcoming college graduation. I had followed Hannah remotely via posts from Matt and his wife, Julie, and it was neat to see their pride in her and their other daughter, Sarah ’11.
Then last fall, Matt sent me a LinkedIn message asking me if I would be willing to assist Hannah with her transition from college to a new career in D.C. area. Of course I said I would be happy to help, although I was not certain what, if anything, a “middle aged guy” like me might have in the way of advice for a smart young lady.
How little did I know? I sent Hannah a message and mentioned that her dad had said she was moving to the D.C. area and I asked her if she had any questions. Wow, I had no idea what flood gates I had opened. (joking!)
Her initial questions were about where to live, how to commute, etc., so this forced me to actually think about where a “single 20-something” would want to live. This was a prospect I had not considered in, let’s just say, a few years.
As luck would have it, I had just attended a bachelor party for a friend’s son in his mid-20s and we had been to several nice restaurants and areas where there were a lot of young adults. I asked many of them where they live or wanted to live, so I was able to give her sound advice based on their responses.
Naturally, Hannah followed up with additional inquiries about other related topics I had no idea about – roommate searching being the largest. I recalled my early roommate memories and shuddered, and then turned my go-to source of all data, my wife, Perri. I asked her for ideas and she had several appropriate ones to pass to Hannah versus the “I have a printer and staple gun for all of the telephone poles in the DC area” option that had initially come to mind.
All of this led me to think about what I would (and will) want someone to do for our daughter and son when they are in a similar situation as Hannah. I realized I had the unique and wonderful opportunity to help a young person truly grow and become an adult.
Randolph did a magnificent job of helping us with tools to learn, reason, and explore, but experience is also a key tool that comes with time, falling on your face and getting back up!
I also realized that the best thing I could mentor Hannah on was how life (adulthood) is full of ups and downs. As we grow and experience life, we know there are concepts, resources, and experiences that come with failures or watching others succeed. While we will never do everything right, we will own every decision. They are ours and that is what makes us better friends, parents, and humans.
I remember how scary it was to be out of the nest for the first time, but had one of my mentors (or parents) simply made decisions for me then I would have had no ownership or responsibility for the decisions. I would have had less incentive (stress, concern, fear) with the outcome of the decisions, but when I had to make and live with the decisions, that is when I can say that I became a responsible member of this thing we call “life.”
That’s exactly how I have approached this opportunity with Hannah. So, from where I sit, it was actually she who mentored me. She helped me learn how to help my kids prepare better for their future lives. Yes, I do enjoy hearing about her car joys, moving into a new house joys, commute joys, work joys, etc., but what I most enjoy is hearing and seeing the “ah ha” moments as they come to this young woman.
To bring things full circle, I can see and feel the absolute pride and joy that Matt and Julie have for their daughter because it is the exact same pride and joy my wife Perri and I will have for our children when they arrive at this stage in their lives. Knowing that they are on their own and making the world a better place, even if that “better place” is just inside our hearts, is an incredible feeling.
I highly encourage everyone in our alumni community to mentor these recent graduates if the opportunity presents itself. Your heart (and their parents) will thank you!
Mentorship: An alumni initiative
At the core of this mutually beneficial relationship lie their roots to Randolph. One of the chief initiatives of the Randolph Alumni Association is to plan and implement tools, events, and relationship-building opportunities to further engage mentorships just like John and Hannah’s.
We encourage all of you to stay connected and engaged because you never know when meaningful mentorships may be just a phone call, email, or message away.
Here are some of the links, resources, and social media sites provided by Randolph Alumni Association to get you in the loop:
- EverTrue - Alumni mobile app
- LinkedIn - Randolph School Alumni Association group
- Facebook - Randolph School Alumni Association page
- Instagram - @randolphalumni
- Pinterest - Alumni news board
- Alumni Office – Share updates and email us directly
No matter how you may choose to do so, we hope you will stay connected or reengage with the Randolph alumni community because your future mentor or mentee could be waiting on you!see